Get ready. These are my new favorite thing, and I suspect they might end up being your favorite thing too. Imagine plump, juicy, citrus segments coated in thin, crunchy, sugar shells. You bite through the crust, and the citrus explodes with a wave of sweetness. It’s a concept I wish I’d thought of myself, but it’s actually a recipe by Dirt Candy’s Amanda Cohen, featured in Cherry Bombe: The Cookbook. Amanda was inspired by a street food vendor in Beijing. And, it’s funny, there is a beautiful photo of her grapefruit pops in the book, but it was her description of the street vendor, and the way his slices lit up the entire street that charmed me into trying them.
A couple things to note before making these. It’s helpful to have a block of foam from a package, or the kind of foam you might use to arrange flowers. This helps your pops stay upright after you candy them. The other consideration is how hot to let the sugar get. Amanda recommends going to 275 – 300°F – or until the mixture is light brown. I like the pops that go a bit darker than that, you get a lot of caramel and molasses notes that play of the citrus in magical ways. The blood orange segments I did in the darkest sugar mixture were a complete revelation. But this is all personal preference, so experiment to figure out where you’d like to be on the spectrum. One last thing I’ll mention, if your mixture doesn’t get hot enough, the candy shell won’t set.
I found the easiest citrus to deal with was anything easy to peel, with minimal seeds, and small to medium in size. Some of the grapefruits were tricky to peel and keep intact. Kishu mandarins, on the other hand, are a dream to work with (pictured). Play around – this is peak citrus season and this make for a dramatic snack, treat, or dessert!
Amanda’s recipe calls for 3 cups of granulated sugar and 3 cups of water, but I’m not likely going to need that much, it would make more pops than we could typically eat. I use 1 cup instead, just know if you want to make a larger batch, you can scale up 1:1.
30 small-medium citrus segments
(mandarin, orange, grapefruit, blood orange, etc.)
1 cup granulated sugar
Place a piece of heavy styrofoam or floral foam on a platter or counter top to hold the skewers upright.
Push a bamboo skewer through each citrus segment. Pour the sugar and 1 cup of water into a small-medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan. heat the mixture, without stirring, over medium-high heat until it turns light brown and registers at least 275°F on a candy thermometer. Let the mixture go a bit darker if you prefer a stronger caramel-molasses flavor. Resist stirring.
Very carefully dip each citrus segment into the hot syrup, coating thoroughly. The syrup will burn you on contact, so be extra careful and deliberate here. Repeat with the remaining skewers, sticking each skewer into the foam upright to allow to dry, forming a hard shell.
Adapted from Amanda Cohen’s Candied Grapefruit Pops recipe in Cherry Bombe: The Cookbook by Kerry Diamond & Claudia Wu, (Clarkson Potter 2017)
Prep time: 5 min– Cook time: 10 min